updated 03:00 pm EDT, Mon April 30, 2007
Harm of patent law reduced
Two major new legal rulings may reduce the restrictions of patent law. In the biggest of the pair, the US Supreme Court has overturned a test used for decades in patent appeals; while a lower court supported the notion (in Teleflex v. KSR) that challengers must show a "teaching, suggestion or motivation" for combining previous inventions, the Supreme Court was persuaded by the likes of Intel, Cisco, Microsoft and General Motors that many such inventions are simply obvious, and do not constitute any substantial improvement on existing patents.
Bloomberg reports that other corporations, such as DuPont and Procter & Gamble, fell on the side of Teleflex. Representatives from the drug and biotech industries stood in for an even larger number of companies.
Meanwhile, another Supreme Court judge has overturned a decision against Microsoft. AT&T charged that voice compression software, used by Microsoft in foreign copies of Windows, constituted an "infringing component" as defined by US patent law. Reuters notes that the earlier Appeals Court ruling was struck down by seven to one, with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg commenting that it "improperly extends United States patent law to foreign markets," even harming US companies by giving foreign businesses an edge.